23 January 2012

Epitaph for a Small Winner, by Machado de Assis

A friend of mine recommended this to me awhile back, and then a random internet searched revealed that it's one of Woody Allen's favorite books. And I couldn't help but think of that as I was reading, imagining how Woody Allen read it, how it influenced him, etc. It enhances the reading experience, actually - you can kind of see the connection between the novel and Allen's worldview.

 It's a strange book, but quite pleasant. It vaguely reminded me of reading Nathanael West's books, though that might be a misleading comparison. Another friend of mine who's also reading it noted that it reminded him of Tristram Shandy, which is definitely a more logical connection to make, although the postmodern experiments are much more restrained and happily unobtrusive. It's presented as a memoir written after the protagonist's death, and it's a random sort of story, a curiously placid account of an ultimately unsuccessful life. In that though, it's a kind of touching account of the human condition, foiled romances, failed ambitions, abstract philosophical speculations that prove nonsensical and maybe even insane, and yet - contentment. A short read, and a worthwhile one.

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